Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
2017 Gray's Reef Research Cruise Photos
Mission Information
 

Gray's Reef Research
Expeditions 2017

Thursday: June 15, 2017
Log Day 7

Jody Patterson
Gray's Reef Events & Volunteer Coordinator
Savannah, GA

The reality of ocean research is that the sea is immense, wide-open, and active. It does not sit still, does not comply with forecasts, and conditions change seemingly without reason or warning. A great mystery that has riddled humanity since inception. What lies below the waves?

L-R, Researchers Tim Henkel and Roldan Muñoz brief reporters; L-R Drew Hunt, Renee LaSallé and Dash Coleman on invertebrate and fishery studies.

L-R, Researchers Tim Henkel and Roldan Muñoz brief reporters; L-R Drew Hunt, Reneé LaSalle and Dash Coleman on invertebrate and fishery studies.
(Photo: Jody Patterson, GRNMS)

The question drives our understanding. With each answer, we ask another question. How do the pieces fit? Scientific research is a game of patience and time, especially as it pertains to our ocean. We cannot force the sea to give up her secrets. We must tease these answers out as we slowly accumulate knowledge and draw conclusions based on these glimpses of understanding.

It takes time to generate enough data to tell a story. Sometimes it also takes media interest, and today we hosted reporters from WSAV-TV, the Savannah Morning News and Connect Savannah to help tell that story.

Scientists on this cruise, Danny Gleason, GSU; Tim Henkel, VSU, Brianne Varnerin, GSU, Alicia Reigel, LSU, Roldan Muñoz, NMFS.

Scientists on this cruise, Danny Gleason, GSU; Tim Henkel, VSU, Brianne Varnerin, GSU, Alicia Reigel, LSU, Roldan Muñoz, NMFS.
(Photo: Jody Patterson, GRNMS)

Our guests joined us aboard Gray's Reef RV Joe Ferguson and were transported to Gray's Reef where the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster is currently working.

NOAA has a fleet of ships, aircraft and other technology that support data to help answer these questions as they relate to our ocean planet. Government and university field scientists are strong partners of NOAA who provide their tools and expertise to enable scientists to dive below the depths and seek out life in remote areas of our ocean.

Ship's crew oversee diver descent to boat launch..

Ship's crew oversee diver descent to boat launch.
(Photo: Jody Patterson, GRNMS)

Researchers at Gray's Reef are dependent on the small boats and regional ships managed and coordinated by NOAA Corps officers and crew to deliver them safely to the sanctuary. We have been able to study, document and observe this special habitat with support from the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster during our annual cruises.

Even with an adequate floating platform to deliver us offshore, the search for life is not easy. Gray's Reef is around 65 feet deep and really only accessible to SCUBA divers. Once we drop below the surface and swim down to the seafloor, an alien topography of sponges, coral, urchin, sea stars, fish and more fish welcomes you. Research divers at Gray's Reef use Nitrox, a blend of oxygen and nitrogen that allows them to stay at the bottom longer than a regular dive tank mixture of gases. However, they must adhere to strict dive tables that inform them of how long they can stay at depth before risking ailments like oxygen narcosis and decompression sickness.

Small boat launch from NOAA Ship Nancy Foster delivering divers on site.

Small boat launch from NOAA Ship Nancy Foster delivering divers on site.
(Photo: Jody Patterson, GRNMS)

In this dynamic ecosystem on the Georgia Bight where Gray's Reef is located, the Atlantic Ocean ebbs and flows in unpredictable patterns. Today, research divers experienced 40 feet of visibility on one ledge but dropped down minutes later at a nearby site to find 10 feet of visibility.

There are many factors involved with current and tide predications, and a diver cannot determine how these factors may affect the dive conditions. While the sanctuary is a premier dive destination off the coast of Georgia, advanced open water recreational divers should be prepared to encounter an assortment of variables. Today's variables were water clarity and visibility, but what never varies is the abundance of life found in the pristine habitats of Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary.


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